BGS Grazing mentors
Identify ways to reduce costs and optimise profits through better production and utilisation of grassland and forage.
The BGS Grazing Mentors can help you to unlock the potential of your pasture.
The one-to-one guidance on your grazing strategy is specifically tailored to your own farm.
The Mentors are experienced livestock producers and grassland managers, and will offer impartial guidance on grazing management on your farm. They will help with goalsetting, planning and overcoming weaknesses in order to improve grassland efficiency. They have undergone specific facilitator training.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please contact us at BGS (firstname.lastname@example.org)
What does mentoring involve?
Normally, mentees will receive an initial visit from the mentor. This will be followed up with conversations via online meeting platforms, telephone, text, email or messaging apps to help with specific problems and to provide updates on progress.
A second visit will be arranged to the mentees farm. Mentors may invite mentees to visit their farm if appropriate.
COVID-19 – Please note: Communication routes may need to be adapted to suit individual circumstances and comply with any government restrictions that may be in place.
Who can apply?
Mentoring is open to grassland managers with any level of grazing experience, of any age, size of holding or class of livestock. Mentoring is focussed on problem solving and goal setting within your own farm situation, developing your farm’s potential in-line with your own targets and objectives.
If you are interested in receiving mentoring, or finding out more, please contact us at BGS (email@example.com)
How has it helped?
“We feel we can ask Matthew anything and he will give us a straight answer right away. This gives us confidence that we are doing the right thing, and that eventually this system will work out for us all, producing a little less milk yield but at a much lower cost”.
“We had a very good day with our mentor and he gave us some good pointers for how to address a new grazing system, which we have tried to implement on the farm. He has sent follow-up emails with useful data and contacts. All in all it has been a very good experience”.
“We had a good discussion about grazing and silage feeding at grass in dry periods. We also discussed herbal leys and grass mixtures. It was useful to be able to talk to someone with knowledge about grazing and ensiling herbal leys”.
The 2021 Grazing Mentors
Click on the mentor photo to find out more.
Clyde has been farming for over 40 years, and rotationally grazing for more than twenty, managing two herds of 500 crossbred cows with high rates of grass utilisation. He has been involved in the conversion of farms to rotational paddock grazing, making sure the farms are financially viable before subsidies. Clyde has also been involved with establishing herbal leys on farms leading to increased biodiversity above and below the soil surface, subsequently making improvements in soil organic matter and soil health. He has helped build a regenerative farming certification scheme for farmers to gain a marque in reward for their efforts in improving soil health and is able to advise farmers on how to increase biodiversity, sustainability, and profit margins. Clyde also wrote for Farmers Weekly for 10 years. Away from farming, Clyde is an ornithologist, environmentalist, and occasional mountain biker based in the South of England.
Keith Davis is the dairy manager for Lydney Park Farms. From 2008 the farm has milked 1000 cows once a day on an intensively managed grazing based system with the target of maximising grass growth and utilisation. As part of his job at Lydney Park Farms, Keith also has to manage a team of up to eleven members of staff who are both full and part time. He takes great delight in working with the different characters and getting the best out of them for the farm plus developing their skills so that they can move up through the business or the industry. Keith has learnt his grazing skills from discussion groups, Livestock Improvement grassland consultants and personal study tours of New Zealand. Keith is a former board member for AHDB Dairy, and is Chairman of The Genetics Advisory Forum to AHDB.
Mark is a fourth-generation dairy farmer from the Blackmore Vale in Dorset. After leaving Kingston Maurward College, he went travelling for nine months to Australia, New Zealand and America, experiencing different farming systems in each country. Upon returning to the home farm, he and his father went about slowly changing from an all year around calving medium input system to a grass-based spring calving system, installing a new 24/48 NZ style parlour in 2014. The farm currently milk 265 Jersey crossbred cows that calve over a 10-week period, producing 400 kg MS from 500 kg of concentrate. They try to keep the system as simple of possible, with the emphasis being on a good work life balance for all involved in the farm and having a sustainable cost of production. Mark is a keen member of two local discussion group, firmly believing in farmer-to-farmer learning being the best way to improve farming practices.
Matthew studied general agriculture, specialising in sheep and beef management, at Kirkley Hall College before starting an apprenticeship on a progressive pedigree sheep and beef farm. He then moved onto a large commercial flock to finish his apprenticeship as an Assistant Shepherd. Matthew managed a flock of commercial sheep for five years before joining Didling Farms Ltd. Over the past 14 years he has progressed from shepherd to flock manager to now overseeing the entire Didling Farm business. Matthew achievements include measuring and monitoring grass performance and monitoring livestock performances for improving farm profitability. In 2019, Matthew set up Blyth Livestock Advisory Services to help support the industry by using his experience gained from managing Didling Farms. He is the first FARMAX Elite Accredited Consultant outside New Zealand. Matthew is a recognised expert in collecting and using data in the sheep and beef industry for improving productivity, and has shared his knowledge and views with farmers and students located in the UK. He has been invited to New Zealand and Ireland to share his expertise and knowledge with other livestock farmers. Matthew is a 2021 Nuffield Scholar looking at evaluating the potential cost benefits of electronic data recording for UK sheep and beef farms.
Leaving Reading University with a degree in Agriculture, Rory was a United Nations Volunteer in Vanuatu, South West Pacific, running a demonstration farm. After spells as a herdsman, tractor driver and working on the Western Australian wheat belt, he joined the Milk Marketing Board's Farm Management Services as a consultant in mid Devon for 6 years. Rory also kept a spring-calving herd of Kiwi Friesians for 27 years and continued as a part-time consultant for Andersons and private clients. Rory is a past-chairperson of Devon Grassland Society and a founder-director of the South Hams Dairy Coop. Keen on grazing and forage management Rory has a lot of practical experience in re-organising farm systems and generating sustainable profits. He is looking forward mentoring farmers and to helping them to achieve their objectives.
Yann Le Du
After University, Yann spent 10 years at the Grassland Research Institute initially working on suckler cow/calf nutrition and grazing strategies. He was involved with the development of grazing management guidelines for dairy and beef cattle, based on pre- and post-grazing pasture covers and measures of sward height, with both rotational and continuous grazing. In 1981 he left GRI, purchased 300 ‘oldish’ Mule ewes, and agreed a deal to contract rear Limousin cross calves. He steadily built the flock up to 2000 March lambing ewes and 110 suckler cows, with all lambs sold finished and calves sold as yearling stores. The emphasis throughout was on maximising grass and forage in the diet. He later reduced cow numbers and moved to outdoor May lambing, producing finished lamb entirely from grass and catch crops. Yann is now retired from full time farming but still manages a small Aberdeen Angus cross suckler herd as well as advising and mentoring farmers on forage based systems, both in UK and Europe.
Farming close to the Solway coast in Dumfries and Galloway, Joey runs a spring block calving herd of 540 Kiwi cross dairy cows, and followers. With high grass production, and several cuts of silage per year, Joey looks to make the most of grass. He has been utilising rotational grazing for 6 years now and has the experience to be able to help farmers who are looking to move towards growing more grass and utilising it more efficiently.
On his hill farm to the south of Perth, John runs a herd of 90 cow spring calving suckler herd and a 600 ewe flock, lambing in mid-April. John started paddock grazing six years ago and admits it has been a steep learning curve. He now has the farm sub-divided with adequate infrastructure in place. John is part of the Grasscheck GB project and has enjoyed sharing his knowledge with visitors to the farm. He feels that having received help from other farmers in the past he would like to return the favour.
Living on the edge of the Shropshire Hills, Malcolm is retired farmer. Previously, on his 300 hectare farm, he farmed a herd of 250 Stabiliser cattle, selling mainly breeding heifers and bulls together with a sheep flock of 1000 ewes. These were mainly Lleyn x Romneys, with lambs going for breeding and for slaughter. He has experience in many types of cattle and sheep finishing systems, and a good understanding of the potential of varying types of farmland. Malcolm states that ‘after being a practical farmer I would like to help any young farming starter to a successful career in our great industry’
Farming just outside Warwick, Matt runs a spring block calving herd of 307 crossbred cows. The herd is rotationally grazed from February through to November, and grass is measured using a plate meter. Three cuts of silage are taken per year. The majority of the farm was an arable reversion and is now averaging 8.5 t DM/ha grown annually. There will be multi-species sward sown in the spring, and Matt is working hard to increase the amount of dry matter grown. Matt admits that he is always trying to think of ‘outside the box’ ideas to successfully get through difficult times in the most profitable way.
From leaving school Mike worked on neighbouring dairy units, as well as beef and sheep farms. Following taking an apprenticeship in agriculture at Duchy College, he studied ruminant nutrition at Harper Adams. After working in the channel islands and France, he returned home and worked in the ruminant feed industry. He now works as an independent nutritionist and FACTS advisor, located near Bodmin in Cornwall. He also runs a beef rearing enterprise on the family farm. Calves are purchased in the autumn, over-wintered, and then sold as forward stores at the end of the following grazing season. He has learnt to farm efficiently on a low acreage, making the most from grass and forage crops. Mike feels that his combination of technical and practical experience puts him in a good position to provide mentoring to farmers.
Together with his wife and son, Neale runs a herd of 240 spring calving Friesian x Jersey cows to the south west of Shrewsbury. He measures grass using a rising plate metre, grazes rotationally, and takes three silage cuts per year. He is a previous runner-up in the BGS Grassland Farmer of the Year competition and is the current Chair of his local show committee.
Neale is no stranger to mentoring, having been part of the BGS Grazing Partners project nine years ago - it is good to have him back on board.
Farming near Godalming in Surrey, Nick runs 300 Friesian cows with calving taking place in the autumn off standing hay. Rotational grazing is carried out from 1st February to 1st November, and grass is measured using a plate metre. Four cuts of silage are taken per year and are fed on a self-feed system (vertical grazing). Diverse swards are also utilised, alongside maize and lucerne. He also has a beef rearing unit. Nick sees farmer to farmer learning as a top priority, and is keen to encourage new and experienced farmers into alternative ways of grazing that are simple and effective.